The History of iOS

The history of iOS is quite long. It may not be as storied as that of Android, but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating.

iOS is the name given to the family of operating systems that run exclusively on Apple’s iPhones. Sorry guys, but those android themes do not count.

Read: The history of Android

This post intends to look at the history of the iOS. We will start from its revolutionary beginnings all the way to the present day. Please note that OS is short for Operating System.

iOS actually began life as MacOS. When the iPhone was in production, some members of the iPhone team thought it was a good idea to shrink down the MacOS. This was to enable it function properly on the smaller and less powerful iPhone but keep a lot of great PC features.

Steve Jobs, who was head of Apple then thought it was a great idea. So, he went with it. During the announcement of the iPhone in January 2007, Steve Jobs referred to the software as OS X. The name was later modified to become iPhone OS and then further shortened to iOS.

History of iOS versions

Image credit (wikipedia)

Criticism and praise

iOS has gotten a lot of flack over its highly restrictive and isolationist nature. In the duopoly that is iOS vs Android, iOS users tend to be in the minority. This could sometimes make them feel isolated as their devices lack compatibility and cross communication with other smartphone OS. They are also restricted to Apple store for third party software and can (in most cases) only use hardware from Apple’s Ecosystem.

That being said, iOS has also received a lot of well earned praise, especially for its ease of use, optimization and fluidity. Its apps are also well made and are less likely to crash. It is well supported with lots of updates (6 years tops) by its software devs. It also gets plenty of new apps and features (sometimes before Android) e.g. Instagram and Clubhouse were made for iOS first.

Read: What is an Operating System?

The history of iOS

iOS 1.0 (OS X, iPhone OS)

The very first iOS version debuted with the original iPhone in June of 2007. It was far superior to Symbian and Blackberry OS which were the major players at the time. The shockwaves from its revolutionary impact still reverberate till today.

iOS 1.0 the history of iOS

In short iOS 1.0 would change how we thought of phones. It would also force Google to develop Android into the powerhouse that it now is.

This version supported calls, SMS (text messages) and photos. New features included full support for e-Mail, Safari browser, Youtube and a revamped music player. It also supported multi-touch which was not available on the old pressure sensitive touch screens, visual voice mail, iTunes store, locate me and stocks.

iOS 2.0

iOS 2.0

In September of 2008, Apple would update iOS to its second version. This update came with the release of the iPhone 3G, although iPhone users also got the update.

This version brought 3G/H+ support, newer languages, contacts, calendar, Google Maps and the App store.

iOS 3.0

This version showed up in June of 2009. It had support for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G and the original iPhone.

iOS 3.0

New features in iOS 3.0 include cut-copy-paste, video recording, find-my-phone and spot-light search. There was also USB/Bluetooth tethering and faster boot up times.

iOS 4.0

The fourth iOS version became available in June of 2010.

iOS 4.0 the history of iOS

It did not have support for the original iPhone which was now obsolete, but it supported three other phones. They are the new iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

The very popular Facetime for video calls, Airplay, AirPrint, Game Center and iBooks made their debut in this version. Other new features included multitasking, personal hotspot etc.

Read: Do you know all of Apple’s iPhones?

iOS 5.0

The 5th generation of iOS was introduced with the all new iPhone 4S. This version also retained support for the iPhones 4 and 3GS but dropped support for the iPhone 3G which had been phased out.

New features here include the notification center, iMessage, reminders, Newstand, camera improvements and a photo editor. We also saw iCloud, Videos, VoiceOver, Siri and Twitter make their bow on iPhones.

iOS 6.0

With the release of the iPhones 5 and 5C came iOS 6.0 (September, 2012). It supported the aforementioned phones as well as iPhones 4S, 4 and 3GS.

Siri became more refined in the version. Facebook, Twitter, Passbook and Weibo were now native iOS apps. Google Maps was substituted for the new Apple Maps. The camera HDR was also massively improved.

iOS 7.0

The coming of iOS 7.0 coincided with the release of the iPhone 5S (September 2013). This version supported older iPhones like the iPhone 5, 5C, 4S and 4. After a good long run, the iPhone 3GS was no longer going to be supported.

This became the first smartphone OS to have full native 64 bit support. The now famous control center, Car play, Airdrop, Compass and touch ID made their first appearances in this version. There were also UI changes and this version brought the long awaited (ability to switch) wallpapers.

iOS 8.0

By the time September of 2014 rolled around, Apple were releasing a lots of eights. They are the Apple A8 SoC and the iOS 8.0. Both could be found in the all new iPhone 6 and 6+.

iOS 8.0 the history of Android

In addition to the above devices, iOS 8.0 kept support for 5S, 5C, 5 and 4S. iPhone 4 would be sent into retirement.

New features include privacy, family sharing, health, continuity and Apple pay. Apple music as well as support for the Apple watch can also be found among the new features and Apple released development kits for programmers to make games for iOS.

iOS 9.0

This version became available in September 2015, with the launch of the iPhones 6S and 6S+. It also kept support for older iphones such as the iPhones 6+, 6, 5S, 5C, 5 and 4S.

For the first time, iPhones would now have low power mode as a battery saving feature. Other inclusions were Apple Wallet, proactive assistance, split view, print preview, iCloud drive for cloud storage and the addition of more languages.

iOS 10

In the season of 10s, iOS 10 was released alongside the Apple A10 fusion for the iPhone 7 and 7+. This took place exactly a year after the release of iOS 9. This version retained support for all existing iPhones from the new 7+ to 4S.

iOS 10 introduces new features like live filters, safari split view, magnifier and portrait. The new TV app replaced the older Video app and users now had the ability to delete system apps as well.

iOS 11

2017 was a big year for Apple. They announced the A11 Bionic SoC and launched the iPhone X. The two other phones launched in that same year included the iPhones 8 and 8+. The iPhone X itself brought iOS 11 with it. iOS 11 was supported by all existing iPhones except the iPhone 4S which was discontinued after an amazing 6 year run.

At this point in the history of iOS, it was announced that iPhones would be supported for around 6 years with the latest iOS updates.

iOS 11 brought features such as drag and drop (widgets), markup, quick type, augmented reality, Airplay 2 and NFC (finally). iPhone battery health was also brought in this version. Voice control for Airplay 2 and answering calls without interrupting music playing on speakers made their debuts here.

iOS 12

iOS 12 and the A12 Bionic would make their first appearances together in September of 2018. This coincided with the launch of the iPhones XR, XS and XS Max. Apple ensured that iOS 12 was supported on all existing iPhone devices from XS Max to the 5 year old iPhone 5S.

In total, the iOS software team had about 14 phones that they had to update, and they certainly did update them.

Apple rebranded iBooks to Apple books. Other new features were compass improvements, measure (using AR), group face time, new emojis, dual sim support (eSim) and group notifications.

iOS 13

This version was released to the public on September 19, 2019 alongside the iPhone 11 series (11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max). It also retained support for all existing iPhones with the exception of iPhone 5S, 6 and 6+ which were retired.

Latest features include dark mode, memoji and keyboard improvements for quick type. Siri’s voice is now AI generated instead of recorded voice clips. Controller support, Car Key and Apple news were introduced. There were also improvements for the App store, Apple maps and screentime.

iOS 14

iOS 14 showed up in September of 2020. It came alongside the iPhone 12 series (12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro max). All iPhones all the way back to iPhone 6S are supported.

It brought with it features such as widgets (finally), App library, compact design, memoji and App clips. Apple card and cash can now be shared with up to 5 family members. Other new features include translate, magsafe, fitness/fitness+, Air tags, app track transparency, 5G support etc.

iOS 15

iOS 15 was released alongside the iPhone 13 series in 2021. iOS 15 retained support for all existing iPhones except the iPhone 6 and 6+.

Features include

  • Redesigned notifications
  • “Focus” for reducing distractions
  • Spatial Audio and SharePlay in FaceTime calls
  • Text recognition in images
  • ID cards in Wallet app
  • Added privacy features
  • Safari, Maps, Weather, and Notes app redesigns (Source).

iOS 16

iOS 16 is the current version of iOS. It was released with the iPhone 14 series in 2022. It supports all iPhones 8 to 14 Pro Max whilst dropping support for the iPhone 7 and 7+.

History of iOS

The new key features include:

  • A redesigned lockscreen
  • Improved focus mode
  • Updated maps and Carplay
  • Passkeys
  • Control Center
  • Shazam integration
  • Better controller support
  • Augmented reality etc.


iOS 17

This is the upcoming version of iOS. It is scheduled to be released alongside the iPhone 15 series and after 6 years, support for the iPhones 8, 8+ and X have been dropped.

New features include:

  • Revamped UI
  • Social
  • Health app
  • Accessibility (creates a text to speech model based on user’s voice)
  • Better security and privacy

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